Virginia speaker forms Select Committee to discuss public school safety

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RICHMOND, Va. (WHSV) — Virginia House Speaker Kirk Cox is putting together a special committee to come up with recommendations to make schools safer in the wake of a deadly mass shooting at a Florida high school.

Cox, a Republican, announced Thursday the formation of a select committee to study emergency preparedness, security infrastructure, behavioral health resources and other areas related to school safety. The committee will recommend legislation for the General Assembly to consider during next year's session.

The committee will be made up of 11 Republicans and 10 Democrats, and will review state and local policy of school safety and make recommendations for consideration by the General Assembly during its 2019 session.

It includes several Valley lawmakers: Steve Landes, Rob Bell and Todd Gilbert.

“There is nothing more important than the safety and security of our children”, said Delegate C. Todd Gilbert (R-Shenandoah) “I commend Speaker Cox for taking the historic step of forming this Select Committee, and I’m eager to get to work finding the most effective means of securing our schools.”

Cox specifically limited the committee's scope to strengthening emergency preparedness, hardening school security infrastructure, implementing security best practices, deploying additional security personnel, providing additional behavioral health resources for students, and developing prevention protocols at primary and secondary institutions across Virginia.

Democrats quickly panned the proposal as insufficient because it does not focus on guns. Democratic Minority Leader Del. Toscano said school safety needs to be part of a broader discussion on how to reduce gun violence.

“The House of Delegates led the effort in recent years to make our schools safer, but the tragedy in Parkland, Florida shows us that we must be ever-vigilant when it comes to school safety. We are taking a bold and significant step today to make school safety a top priority of the House of Delegates,” said Speaker Kirk Cox (R-Colonial Heights). “Delegate Gilbert will bring a unique perspective to the Select Committee, and I look forward to the ideas he will contribute to the important work ahead of the committee.”

This is the first select committee formed in the House in 155 years. Select Committees are reserved for matters of considerable significance that cross the jurisdiction of conventional and established standing committees.

The committee will complete its work by Nov. 15 of this year and produce a final report containing its recommendations no later than Dec. 15.